I guess I wasn’t what you might call a typical child.
Looking back, most kids my age loved hockey or baseball, rode bicycles and skateboards, played with Tonkas or Barbies, dreamed of ferris wheels and roller coaster rides.
You know, kid stuff.
Me? I loved scary stuff.
It wasn’t always the case. In fact, I remember going off to the movies with my older siblings when I was 8 or 9- probably on the pretense of seeing Disney’s latest – and then having them sneak in to a matinée revival of Jaws (literally even – my brother would push my younger sister and I to the ground and have us crawl past the ticket booth – we were small for our age anyway so hard to see that far below – and then pocket the money for the arcade later.) That particular day’s misadventure, however, was hampered by my standing frozen in fear at the movie theatre’s entrance, which so happened to be the giant mouth of said killer shark. What made the moment even worse was my little sister, jumping up and down for joy, excited to go off and watch the giant fish “eat ’em all!”. As much as I tried to force myself, I couldn’t make my feet move past those killer teeth, so instead I was parcelled off, alone, to the theatre next door to watch Capricorn One. Capricorn freakin’ One. To this day, I have NO idea what the movie was about, but when I came out of it, I did two things: 1)) raved about it like it was some space epic unlike any other (Star Wars? Pfft. Who needed it!) and 2) swore I’d never let a little thing like a movie “scare” me like that again.
Now, looking back, I guess I thought (hoped!) that second promise would be an empty one. Yet, wouldn’t you know it, my older sister Donna had a growing fondness for a little trend known as the slasher flick, and as it turned out she didnt’ mind bringing me along for company. And before long she introduced me to the Michael Meyers and the Freddy Kruegers and the Jason Vorhees of the world, and, mustering up some newfound bravery, together we laughed and screamed and hid under the seats and delighted in freaking everyone the hell out by singing “one, two, Freddy’s coming for you” or Jason’s little “ki ki ki ma ma ma” mantra (which I later discovered to mean “kill kill kill mom mom mom” Yikes!)
Take that, Jaws, you big stupid fish! Your stupid hungry appetite might have spooked me once, but now I was down with Freddy and Jason, so you don’t scare me now!
And besides, they were just silly actors in masks, spilling copious amounts o ketchup as they hacked and slashed their way through a high school prom. They couldn’t REALLY hurt me. What was so scary about that?
But like all sweet idyllic childhood things I suppose, after a while, I grew out of my killer/slasher faze. Seemed those boys and their shiny knives and razor-sharp finger claws didn’t frighten me so much. And as it turned out, I seemed to almost crave that scare, the high and the rush I got from it, and the killer next door wasn’t doing it for me . I was a horror junkie you might say. But where to turn to next, for my latest fix?
Growing up Catholic with a capital C, I could never get into the demonic/possession garden variety of horror flicks, like the Omen or the Exorcist or Rosemary’s Baby. It seemed to real to me, like the priest was going to come fly down off the altar during Mass and say “Cast ye out ye demon, I see you chewing Hubba Bubba there” or something to that effect. Way to close to home I thought.
And zombies? Don’t like ’em. Never have. So no Walking Dead for me. No sir. I mean, c’mon, le’ts face it…they’re rude, grimace way too much, have huge gaping holes where their flesh used to be, and without a doubt frequently drop their innards on the living room carpet (and don’t even THINK about asking them to pick up after themselves!) Also, they only ever have one thing on their mind. Eating brains. Big brains, little brains, cow brains…doesn’t matter, as long as they get to munch on the ol’ grey matter. I hate that kind of single-mindedness, that tunnel vision. Can’t they be a bit more versatile? Or at least add a few veggies?
Then, there’s the vampires. Now, once upon a time, I LOVED vampires. Buffy is, after all, always and foreve more my homegirl. (Of course, Buffy’s not a vampire per se…. technically she just slays ’em. But she’s knocked boots with more than a few, so that has to count for something in the like department!) And as a kid, I was a pretty fierce Count Dracula for more Halloweens than I can count (it’s that widow’s peak of mine….lends itself kind of naturally to it!) At one time, I worshipped at the altar of Anne Rice, and the Vampire Lestat remains one of my favourite pieces of modern literature. (Yup, I said literature, and I have a major in English Lit from Dal, so I’m allowed to say that!) But….when Anne Rice found Jesus, she kind of lost me. As for the whole True Blood phenomenon, I must say I’m a bit neutral. I should love it in theory, but I’ve never quite been able to warm up to it, the books or the television show. It reads to me like someone dusted off a couple of reject pile Harlequin novels and said, “I know, let’s change this up by making them all blood suckers and fairy folk and were-panthers! Yup, you read that right. Were-panthers.
Sadly, however, the whole Twilight experience is whats truly killed my love affair with the whole vampire crowd. Admittedly, I’ve read the four books in the series, consumed them over the course of a rainy summer month last year. I enjoyed them as the quick, fluffy read they were, drawn in by my love of all things bloodsucking, but promptly forgot about them as soon as I turned the final page. (I do admire what Stephanie Meyer has done however. Much like JK Rowling – a much more highly skilled and imaginative writer – she has turned an entire generation onto reading, and for everybody, for lots of reasons, that’s a very good thing). Still, I think the movie portrayals were the final nail in the coffin, so to speak. I like Kristen Stewart, but was turned off from the start by her portrayal of Bella, a poorly written, terribly under realized heroine who proves she’s anything but, as she just waits…and waits…and waits some more….on the prom date from hell that was Edward to come around and realize they were meant for each other, all the while ignoring the emotional abuse heaped on her from both Edward and Jacob. And unlike his counterparts in the past,the Lestats and Angels to name a few, Edward wasn’t sexy or scary, the way vampires are supposed to be. Instead, he was kind of like an anorexic bunny rabbit with teeth. And don’t even get me started on the werewolves. Pretty as Taylor Lautner might be minus his shirt, it HAD to occur to some insightful producer somewhere “can we re-write this thing and make him mute?” when the boy was expected to open his mouth and….you know, emote, like actors sometimes do. (I kept hoping for Sarah Michelle Gellar to come flying in, kick the mangy dogs, stake the sparkly vamps, then slap Bella and say “Girlfriend, three words. Grow a pair!)
So, amongst this rather bleak landscape, what’s a former horror aficionado to do? Well, truth be told, what I came to discover that I truly love, what really gives me goosebumps, makes my skin crawl and the little hairs on my neck stand on end, is a good ol’ fashioned haunted house/ghost story, along the lines of The Shining or The Others. Or, like my latest obsession, American Horror Story, a show that Entertainment Weekly recently warned us about, saying TV Just Got Weird!” Described as a psychosexual thriller by its Gleeful creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk (those same guys that made Nip/Tuck. Or, you know, the LAST time TV just got weird), I think it’s safe to say that AHS (that’s what the cool kids and hipsters call it) is unlike ANYTHING you’ve seen on network television before. On its surface, it pretends to be a show about a broken family called the Harmons (Dylan McDermott, Connie Britton and Taissa Farmiga) who move to LA from Boston in the hopes of salvaging their lives (dad’s had an affair after mom suffers a horrible miscarriage while daughter is depressed and suicidal). But little do they know their dream house is actually “Murder House”, a place of death and horrific tragedy upon tragedy, with many unwanted and unhinged visitors (including most notably Zachary Quinto, spewing venom and chewing scenery at every turn.) A campy yet delightful visceral thriller, with more plot twists then you can shake a stick at (and probably plot holes big enough to drive a truck through), American Horror Story is a guilty pleasure who’s crowning achievement is the tour de force performance by the still stunningly beautiful Jessica Lange as a Southern belle from hell (well, not literally, least I don’t think….but it’s saying something about the depth of her talent in her mesmerizing performance as Constance that in a show full of ghosts and serial killers and rapists she comes across as the greatest monster of them all.)
The finale strikes tonight (that’s what it feels like….some unknown entity out there, waiting in the shadows, about to pounce upon it’s unsuspecting victims), but never fear, I’m sure it’s about to become the most talked about series of the year, with lots of chances to catch up in coming months before Season 2 unfolds next fall. So get in on this groundbreaking television event, and prepare yourself for the thrill ride of your life. Don’t say you weren’t warned. (Donna, I hope you’re watching!)
Also, you should probably leave the lights on during…and after. Don’t say you weren’t warned about that too 🙂